Jim Rushen on the importance of water stewardship

Jim Rushen on the importance of water stewardship

Jim Rushen, Centrica's Head of Environment talks about what we're doing to reduce our water impact. 

What is the one thing our world couldn’t live without? For me, water has to be a strong contender because it plays such a vital role in our lives - from rehydration and hygiene, to irrigation and use in industrial processes. Yet we often take it for granted because it’s always there, readily available at the turn of a tap.

But water use has been growing at more than twice the rate of population in the last century and by 2025, it’s predicted that 1,800 million of us will be living in water scarcity which is when demand for water outstrips availability, while two-thirds of the world’s population could experience water-stressed conditions[1]. It’s clear increasing population growth, urbanisation and industrialisation alongside the impact on supply caused by climate change is having a big impact, so I believe it’s vital we all take action today, to safeguard the right to water for future generations.

That is why at Centrica, we’re committed to reducing our water impact through strong environmental management as well as increasing visibility of our water footprint. This not only helps ensure we protect the environment, but improves our business resilience, efficiency and protects our licence to operate.

So what’s our impact?

I’m pleased to say that for a company our size, we actually consume a relatively small amount of water and importantly, we don’t operate water-intensive activities in water-stressed areas. The vast majority of water we withdraw is used rather than consumed as it’s returned to the same water catchment area within a short time period and with minimal change, which ensures impact to the water source is minimal.

Most of our water-related risks and opportunities lie within our power and gas assets and while these aren’t considered to have a substantial impact on our business, we conduct environmental impact assessments and implement water management plans to reduce risk and ensure water use is in balance with local ecological and environmental conditions.

We also aim to reduce water consumption through targets at our major UK offices. Unfortunately, we were unable to meet our 3% reduction target in 2014 due to maintenance issues which have now been addressed. We are however now working hard to achieve our 3% reduction target for 2015.

And we’re sharing our efforts with others to improve water stewardship.

Corporate impact on water is also a growing concern for investors who want to support sustainable companies and through CDP’s corporate water reporting programme, we are together helping transform the market to reward companies with good water stewardship. CDP are an international NGO representing around a third of the world’s invested capital and by participating in their water programme alongside other leading businesses, we can transparently share how we identify, manage and mitigate risks and opportunities related to water, enabling investors to make more informed decisions while other companies can learn from what we’re doing.

Our disclosure and performance is assessed against four consecutive levels which represents the steps a company makes as it journeys towards robust water stewardship – Disclosure, Awareness, Management and Leadership. Yesterday, we were ranked again at the Management level, which is slightly above our sector average. This shows we integrate water into our business strategy and that we’re taking good action to mitigate our water impact.

But there is always more that we can do, so we’ll work hard to do just that. What can you do to make a difference?


[1] UN Water